Serena’s Review: “Magic Binds”

17333174Book: “Magic Binds” by Illona Andrews

Publishing Info: Ace, September 2016

Where Did I Get this Book: the library!

Book Description: Kate and the former Beast Lord Curran Lennart are finally making their relationship official. But there are some steep obstacles standing in the way of their walk to the altar…

Kate’s father, Roland, has kidnapped the demigod Saiman and is slowly bleeding him dry in his never-ending bid for power. A Witch Oracle has predicted that if Kate marries the man she loves, Atlanta will burn and she will lose him forever. And the only person Kate can ask for help is long dead.

The odds are impossible. The future is grim. But Kate Daniels has never been one to play by the rules…

Review: From all accounts, the Kate Daniels series is set to be a ten book run. And this, the 9th, definitely feels like it is the setup for a grand finale, hitting all the right notes by growing the conflict with Roland, raising the psychological stakes for our heroine, and setting up a clear end game for the story as a whole.

The last few books were a bit middling, if I’m honest. As I said in my last review of this series, with Roland on the scene any other “big bad” feels superficial and like a place-holder whose only purpose is to delay the big eventual show-down between Kate and her father. In this book, we’ve arrived at that show-down. Or, at least, to the initial skirmishes that lead up to it.

For a series that started out fairly firmly rooted in the urban fantasy/romance genre, I feel like the story has really come into its own as a family drama. And what a dysfunctional, all-powerful, ego-maniacal family it is! While Curran still plays his role, his and Kate’s relationship has felt steady and well-defined for some time now. And I really appreciate that after the one stumble with relationship shenanigans a few books ago, Andrews hasn’t felt the need to fiddle with this aspect much. Instead, the focus has shifted to Kate’s growing understanding and relationship (?) with her remaining family, in whatever form they may now be.

Kate’s aunt, the “City Eater,” who was killed off a few books ago makes a refreshing re-appearance. That character was brilliant the first time around, both as a legitimately threatening enemy for Kate, but almost more importantly as another bridge into Kate’s family history. Here, this secondary role is even more strongly focused in upon. Kate is feeling the repercussions of her claim on Atlanta, an action that has triggered a well of power and family ambition. Not only do we get Kate’s aunt back with all of her amazing snark, but we even get to meet whatever remains of Kate’s grandma, a powerful being whom Roland has trapped to serve as an energy source to power his massive prison. There’s a lot of focus on the extensive history of Kate’s family with some beautiful looks back to what their world had been like. These flashes, combined with some quiet moments between Roland and Kate, served to much better flesh out Roland’s character and motivations.

Roland himself was great as always. Here we really begin to see the pay-off of taking this long (several books worth of time) to fully flesh out a villain. Roland is so many things all at once: loving father, murdering sociopath, sympathetic hero, misguided maniac. The reader both despises him, but also understands him. With Kate herself struggling with the “Dark Side,” for lack of a better word, it is easy to see Roland’s own fall from hero to villain. His relationship with Kate is so tragic, and yet Andrews saves the book from melancholy with trademark wit. At one point Roland is both threatening to end Kate while also being offended on her behalf about the “shameful lack of feasting” that is planned for her wedding. It’s lovely.

There are few short mini-adventures in this story, and those were the weaker points for me. They were fun enough and we run into a few interesting new creatures (a spunky pegasus is a high point), but given the added depth that we were seeing in the other parts of the book, these adventures also felt a bit too simplistic.

My only other quibble was with the very end of the story, and it was an event that had been literally prophesied from the very beginning of the book, if not the book before even. And really, this quibble is only a personal choice as *spoiler warning* not typically being a fan of pregnancy storylines in fantasy is purely on me.

All in all, I very much enjoyed this book. It actually might be one of my favorites in the series. The stakes are higher, the personal conflict is greater, the backstory is richer, and the characters have all come into their own.

Rating 8: A great penultimate story!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Magic Binds” is included in these Goodreads lists: “Vamp’s, Were’s, Sorcerer’s/Witches & Elves “  and “Girl with a Sword and an Animal Friend.”

Find “Magic Binds” at your library using WorldCat!

Previously Reviewed: “Kate Daniels Series” and  “Magic Shifts”

 

A Revisit to Fear Street: “The New Girl”

9851339Book: “The New Girl” (Fear Street #1) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, August 1989

Where Did I Get This Book: Ebook from the library!

Book Description: Welcome to Fear Street.

Don’t listen to the stories they tell you about Fear Street. Wouldn’t you rather explore it yourself…and see if its dark terrors and unexplained mysteries are true? You’re not afraid, are you?

Dying for a Kiss

She’s pale as a ghost, blond, and eerily beautiful—and she seems to need him as much as he wants her. Cory Brooks hungers for Anna Corwin’s kisses, drowns in her light blue eyes. He can’t get her out of his mind. And the trouble has only begun: Shadyside High’s star gymnast is losing sleep, skipping practice, and acting weird. All the guys have noticed, but only Cory’s friend Lisa knows the truth: Anna Corwin is dead and living on Fear Street. Now Cory must explore its menacing darkness to discover the truth. He has already been warned: come to Fear Street and you’re dead!

Had I Read This Before: No

The Plot: Sweet baby Jesus, jumping back into this series right at the beginning and I have learned that it didn’t slowly turn into a batshit bananasfest, it was ALWAYS this way. We first visit Fear Street because of high school gymnast and lovesick puppy Cory, a boy who sees a beautiful new girl in the cafeteria one day and just has to find out who she is. He’s oblivious to the fact that his best friend Lisa is in love with him, and would rather cuddle up next to this blonde who ‘haunts’ him and practically ‘floats’ down the hallway. All Lisa knows is that girl is named Anna Corwin. After asking around and getting a phone operator complicit in his stalking (she gives him Anna’s address even though she isn’t supposed to, because he ‘seems nice enough’ and ‘it’s [her] last night anyway’), Cory calls the number only to be told there is no Anna there.

Not to be deterred in his obsession, Cory asks Anna if the number he has is right, to which she says yes. But when he calls, a woman answers and says that Anna isn’t there, despite the fact he can hear her screeching in the background. So, deciding that this is obviously a messed up situation, he ventures off to Fear Street, the street that Anna lives on. And this is where it starts to get crazy. A man answers the door and tells Cory that Anna isn’t there, because Anna is DEAD!!!!!!

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Cory in that moment. (source)

Still undeterred, Cory refuses to believe that she’s dead in spite of the fact that he’s presented with newspaper articles, testimony, and an obituary that Anna Corwin is dead and buried. By all accounts, she’s no more, ceased to be, etc. He even breaks some pretty serious privacy ethics when he looks for her file in school and cannot find one for her. Signs are pointing to ghost. So how come whenever he kisses her (and boy does Anna REALLY like to kiss him, like all the time), she feels alive, warm, and supple? And why is it that she’s always asking him to save her and take her away and be with her FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER? Nothing fishy about that. Everything must be on the up and up.

Well, after a few too many meetings, Cory finds out that Anna’s brother Brad wants to keep him away from her, so much so that she’s taken out of school for a bit. Though Cory continues to pine, when Lisa asks him to the Turnaround Dance, he accepts, only to find out that Anna has returned, saw the whole exchange, and also wants to go with him. By complete coincidence, Lisa later opens her locker to find that someone has thrown a dead and gutted cat inside of it, with a note that says she is up next for the killing. Cory is convinced that it MUST be Brad, Anna’s deranged brother!

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Totally. (source)

Come the night of the dance, Cory goes with Lisa even though he really wishes he was there with Anna, and then Brad shows up and shoves Lisa down some steps, though he claims it’s a mistake. But, mistake or not, dude, that’s uncool. Luckily Lisa gets away with just a swollen ankle. The harassing phone calls up until this point seem like cake now.

Cory eventually confronts Anna about her crazy brother over pizza, and Anna tells him that she and Brad had a sister named Willa, who fell down the basement stairs. It broke the Mom, and Brad as well, and now they moved to Shadyside as a family to start over. Anna says that Brad, sad about Willa and dealing with a recently dead girlfriend named Emily (who died in a plane crash, what the HELL?!), got the names mixed up when he sent the obit to the newspaper. Hence why everyone thinks Anna is dead. It’s not Anna, it’s Willa who’s dead. Because of course. Not strange at all. But then Brad is outside the pizza parlor, staring in at them, Anna runs off.

SO WE ARE BACK AT THE CORWIN HOUSE, and Cory comes to take Anna away with him to keep her safe from Brad. But as he’s confronting Brad, suddenly Anna starts to turn exceedingly violent with a letter opener. She takes a few swings at Brad, and then turns on Cory when he tells her to maybe knock it off. And it is then (after an asinine moment with a window) that we find out that Anna is NOT Anna, she is WILLA. Willa, jealous of Anna, killed her sister, and Brad covered up for her, but never got her the help she needed, thinking he could keep her safe. Good one, Dr. Frasier Crane.

Our story concludes with Willa possibly getting the help she needs, and Cory and Lisa finally coming together as a man and his silver medal. And that, guys, is how the very first “Fear Street” book ends.

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(source)

Okay, let’s unpack it all, shall we?

Body Count: One, being Anna before the events of the actual story. Well, and a cat. So I guess two. Poor cat.  A pretty low number for a Fear Street book, really.

Romance Rating: 5. Anna was far too creepy from the beginning and Cory was so heartless to/oblivious about Lisa until basically the end. But ultimately I was happy that Lisa was happy because she was pretty decent.

Bonkers Rating: A solid 9. I expected this kind of craziness from later books, but apparently it was there from the get go.

Fear Street Relevance: This book introduced Fear Street as a concept and a lot of the important plot points took place on it, so I will give it a 9 in this category as well.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“The passenger door swung open. He started to scream.”

….. And then we find out it’s just Anna opening the car door. Stine is known for these kinds of things. Sometimes you gotta improvise when every chapter needs to end with suspense!

That’s So Dated! Moments: So the copy I found of this book was actually an updated version, trying to make “Fear Street” hip and relevant to the youth of the early 2000s. But it was done in an incredibly lazy way, such as replacing a Walkman with an iPod and Phil Collins songs with Missy Elliott songs (I did my research), and yet leaving in references to video stores, records, and actual human phone operators. PET PEEVE! Will be looking for the originals from now on.

Best Quote:

“Go get more paper towels,” Lisa said. “Ucccch, I think I’m going to be sick. It’s a good thing I hate cats.”

That’s Lisa after she finds the dead cat in her locker. I swear, they’re all psychos in Shadyside .

So “The New Girl” really gets things going with the Revisit to Fear Street! Next up is “The Prom Queen”, Fear Street #15 (I’m jumping ahead just this once because I had access to that one right away, I’ll be trying to go in order after that).

 

 

February 2017 Highlights

Winter is still here, but we’re dreaming of spring! And in the mean time, February is the month when all chocolate eating is justified and weight gain magically doesn’t exist! So yay for that! It also seems that the beginning of the year is ripe with tons of new releases. We both had a very tough time narrowing our list down to only three choices,  but here they are!

Serena’s Picks

16148435Book: “The Burning World” by Isaac Marion

Publication Date: February 7, 2017

Why I’m Interested: This is a very strange book in that it is a sequel to “Warm Bodies,” a novel that was published seven years ago now and has had a feature film released a few years ago on top of that. The timing is bizarre, to say the least. So this is listed based on the strength of the original that introduced us to “R” a zombie who wanted more from life and found it in his human love interest, Julie. Kate and I both read this for bookclub (check out the review here) and very much enjoyed it. But the book also felt fairly perfect as a stand-alone novel, so combine the question of “is there really more story to tell here?” with the delayed publication date…we shall see!

24763621Book: “Wintersong” by S. Jae-Jones

Publication Date: February 7, 2017

Why I’m Interested: This story features the tried and true story of a girl stolen away to an underground world by a Goblin King. But never let it be said that simply because we’ve read  one (or a million!) iterations of a story that there’s not still more than can be done if you have the right take and author. While the premises definitely sounds similar to “Labyrinth,” there also seems to be notes from “The Phantom of the Opera” with a musically inclined protagonist whose mentor is some type of Other. This is the second month in a row that has a book that references “Phantom of the Opera.” Is this a trend??

25670396Book: “Miranda and Caliban” by Jacqueline Carey

Publication Date: February 14, 2017

Why I’m Interested: I read and loved Jacqueline Carey’s three Terre d’Ange trilogies. I read and loathed her urban fantasy series. From everything I’ve heard, this book hearkens back to the former both in style and substance. A re-telling of “The Tempest,” this book focuses the tale on Prospero’s daughter, Miranda, a lonely girl who befriends Caliban, a wild boy that is taken into servitude by her father. This sounds like such an intriguing premises, and if Carey is back to form, than she is more than capable of bringing much beauty and heart to this strange tale.

Kate’s Picks

20600617Book: “Afterlife With Archie (Vol.2): Betty R.I.P.” by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Publication Date: February 14th, 2017

Why I’m Interested: As you all know, I absolutely LOVED the first collection of “Afterlife with Archie” comics. And finally, FINALLY, the second volume by Aguirre-Sacasa is coming out. When we left the Riverdale gang they ventured out into the zombie apocalypse, running from Jughead and his undead army. I’m still so tickled about it. I’ve just been dying to find out what happens next because I love what’s been done with these characters and I love how genuinely creepy Aguirre-Sacasa has written this story. I’m a bit worried about the collection title, because Betty is my girl and I don’t want to say goodbye to her yet!

29430798Book: “The Devil Crept In” by Ania Ahlborn

Publication Date: February 7th, 2017

Why I’m Interested: When Stevie Clark’s cousin disappears, memories and whispers in the community remind him of another disappearance he heard of, from years before. Not only did children disappear, but pets did too, and no one knows what happened. Stevie decides to try and find his cousin on his own, but maybe the truth is far worse than anyone ever expected. This sounds like a really creepy and suspenseful book, and while missing person books can be a bit heavy at times, this one has the potential to bring in more scares than melancholy. I really can’t wait to see what this is all about.

24382227Book: “Dreamland Burning” by Jennifer Latham

Publication Date: February 21st, 2017

Why I’m Interested: Though this one kind of functions outside of my usual genres, I have to say that I’m very intrigued by this book. It is a two perspective story in which a girl in modern times finds a skeleton on her property, and then nearly 100 years ago a boy finds himself in the middle of a community simmering with racial tension. The context of the story is Jim Crow Laws and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, and I am very interested to see what Latham does to interweave these two stories, and how she connects the past to the present in a number of ways.

What books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!

The Great Animorphs Re-Read:#2 “The Visitor”

324505Animorphs #2: “The Visitor”

Publishing Info: Scholastic Paperbacks, June 1996

Where Did I Get this Book: own it!

Book Description: Morphing is certainly more fun than Sega — you can soar as an eagle and walk as a cat. But being an ANIMORPH is by no means just fun and games. Rachel knew better than anyone. One of her best friends, Melissa, is acting very strange. And it looks like Melissa’s dad, who is also the school’s Assistant Principal, may be connected to evil aliens. Rachel can’t tell Melissa what the ANIMORPHS have learned, but Melissa doesn’t seem interested in talking to Rachel these days anyway. Could Melissa be one of “them?” With the help of Jake, Cassie, Tobias and Marco, Rachel plans to enter her friend’s house as a cat, intent on unlocking the secrets from within. If only Rachel could keep her mind off mice…

Narrator: Rachel

Plot: Fun, not-plot-related note, this was the first Animorphs book I read, because I was given it for a Christmas present by a relative who simply saw a cover with a cat and thought “Hey, Serena likes cats…” And thus, an addiction was started! 

The plot! The Animorphs aren’t quite sure what they’re supposed to be doing in this whole “battle the Yeerks” thing after their disastrous attempt at infiltrating the Yeerk pool in the last book. So, like all good decisions, they decide to simply follow around the one Controller (other than Tom) they know about: their vice principal Mr. Chapman. (This is such middle school greatness! Cuz of course a Yeerk big bad would be a school vice principal!) And they’re in is Rachel’s friend Melissa, Chapman’s daughter. This being Rachel’s story, she is the one to morph Melissa’s cat Fluffer McKitty (actual cat’s name!) and infiltrate her friend’s home. What she finds is a boatload of teen sadness and a secret basement set-up where Chapman and Visser Three discuss their evil plans to take over the world. Visser Three, however, is of the paranoid type, and after noticing the suspicious house cat lurking down there once,  is not about to take any chances a second time. Thus opening the final act of the story in which Rachel is carted off in a kitty carrier and barely escapes with her life!

Xena, Warriar Princess: Rachel is probably my favorite character (though Tobias and Marco give her a run for her money). In the other books, she’s portrayed as a rather simple example of the “heroically brave” one. So, it’s always interesting reading her books and getting to see beneath this front that she puts up for her friends. I had completely forgotten about her friendship with Melissa (and I’m pretty sure there’s not much more of it going forward), but it was a lovely glimpse into how seriously and deeply Rachel understands the word “friendship.” There are also plenty of examples that highlight Rachel’s tendency to charge headfirst into things and to believe that she needs to shoulder things alone. After getting spotted by Visser Three the first time she goes in as a cat, she is careful not to mention the incident to her friends, since she knows they will insist she not repeat the tactic going forward. And, given what happens…probably not the best idea, Rachel! But her bravery isn’t simply foolish headstrongness, she’s actually just that willing to make the sacrifices that are needed. Towards the end, when she thinks all is lost, she insists the others flee and that she’ll go down fighting alone. And it’s clear that this isn’t just lip service. She is truly just that willing to die for her friends.

One last note, in this book we get Rachel’s reason to continue this fight. And, no surprise given her characterizations that I discussed above, it’s because the Yeerks have hurt her friends, namely Melissa whose parents are both Controllers and have withdrawn from her completely:

Next time Marco asked why we were fighting the Yeerks, I knew I would have a whole new answer. Because they destroy the love of parents for their daughter. Because they made Melissa Chapman cry in her bed with no one to comfort her but a cat.

*sobs*

Our Fearless Leader: Jake’s main event in this book is spending waaaaay too much time as a flea riding around on kitty!Rachel. Turns out that Tobias (couples watch!) doesn’t quite believe Rachel when she claims nothing happened after her first trip in the house, and so the others come up with the brilliant plan of Jake going in with her. As a flea. He’s got a few funny lines towards the end, and it’s kind of relief to realize that Jake has a sense of humor, as all too often if feels like he’s just stoic-leader-“we must be responsible!!”-Jake.

A Hawk’s Life: Poor Tobias. (Obviously). But his time in this book is spent on some of the less sexy tasks. Like chasing an angry tom cat (original Fluffer’s not too keen on these random teens chasing him around the yard every night), catching shrews for Rachel to morph, then having to rescue kitty!Rachel at the very end. A feat that I’m not sure a red tailed hawk could even pull off, given the size and weight of your average tom cat.

Peace, Love, and Animals: Cassie doesn’t have a whole lot going on in this book. In the beginning there’s another example of the fact that she’s much better at morphing than the others. While de-morphing from birds, the others all look disgusting, while Cassie manages to save her wings for last and go for the “angel-like” look. She, along with Tobias, also notices that Rachel is acting strange after her first trip into the house.

The Comic Relief: Marco, too, doesn’t do a lot in this book. Though his quippy lines are still great! He does get to drive around a few bulldozers in the final confrontation at the end, which I think is our first example of Marco’s terrible driving. I do believe it comes up again later…with some disastrous results!

Best (?) Body Horror Moment: I’m sure if we had gotten an actual scene of Jake morphing the flea, that would have been the hands down winner. And really, morphing  a cat seems like one of the better options. The shrew…not so much. So, not really disgusting, but shrews in general seem like a morph to avoid given the extreme panicky state of their little rodent minds. Well…there you go…”little rodent minds” is disgusting enough!

Couples Watch!: Given that this is a Rachel book, we get a lot of Rachel/Tobias action. They’re pretty adorable, and by far my favorite couple (sorry Jake/Cassie, there’s just no competing with the “one of us is a hawk!” angst/tragedy!) We get a very pointed moment where Tobias privately thought speaks Rachel to be careful when she’s infiltrating the house. Not to mention his insight into her character to realize something’s up, and the dramatic rescue at the end!

If Only Visser Three had  Mustache to Twirl: I’m pretty sure that Visser Three wants to have his own cat. He spends a good amount of time admiring Rachel’s cat morph in this book, even going so far as to say that it’s a shame that the cat species is too small to be a good Yeerk host. Combined with the tiger-love from the last book…yeah, the Visser’s a cat person.

Adult Ugly Crying at a Middle Grade Book: Oh man, these books! In this one, we get the heart breaking scene of Melissa crying on her bed alone, cuddling kitty!Rachel because she doesn’t understand why her parents suddenly stopped loving her. And then later, when kitty!Rachel is being carted away in a cat carrier by Mr. Chapman, Melissa starts crying and asking why her cat is being taken away and when she finally gets an answer she’s like “But…didn’t you hear me before? I was crying!” and he’s like “Oh..were you?” It’s so awful. Another insight into how truly horrible the Yeerk invasion in when you think of these types of ramifications. It’s not just the hosts who are being hurt.

What  a Terrible Plan, Guys!: So, to catch Fluffer so that Rachel can acquire him, they decide that the absolute best plan is for Rachel to first morph a shrew and then run around as bait to lure Fluffer down from the tree. Yes. This plan is as dumb as it sounds.

Favorite Quote:

I have a feeling that many of these will be Marco quotes, but who cares! Here we have Marco’s insights on fashion. Background info: the Animorphs all have to morph in skintight clothing so as not to de-morph and be naked.

“Not Fantastic Four. I’m thinking more an X-Men kind of thing. It’s not about being identical, it’s just about having some style. Right now, if anyone saw us, they wouldn’t think ‘Oh, cool, superheroes,’ they’d think ‘Man, those people do not know how to dress.’”

Scorecard: Yeerks 1, Animorphs 0

The scorecard goes unchanged in this one. Not much really happens as far as a win/lose scenario.

Rating: A slower book than the first, but a deeper look into the truly awful, and often more unseen, side effects of the Yeerk invasion.

Note: I’m not going to rate these books since I can’t be objective at all! But I’ll give a one sentence conclusion and you can take from that what you will!

Kate’s Review: “Cold Calling”

33837691Book: “Cold Calling” by Hadyn Wilks

Publishing Info: Dead Bird Press, February 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: An ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Book Description: You spend your days staring into a computer screen, trying to sell life insurance to young couples with new babies.

You spend your nights staring into a computer screen, extracting filth from and injecting bile into the internet.

You still live with the same dickhead housemate you went to university with.
Your only respite from computer screens are nights spent getting smashed with him at student bars, watching him prance around, trying to pull much younger girls.

Your life sucks and you suck at it.

One drunken night, you try something new.
Something terrible.
But something that brings you new energy, new drive, new desires.

You start eating the young.

Note: THERE WILL BE MANY SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.

Review: Oh, hey, hi! What’s up? Uh huh, uh huhhhhh, yeah, that’s cool. Oh, how did I spend my night, you ask? Oh you know. Watching ‘Top Model’… Eating some cake…

Reading a novella about a guy who eats babies…

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You read that right. Also, spoiler alert. (source)

Terrible etiquette, I apologize. But yeah. “Cold Calling”‘s main character eats babies. Okay, just hold on, hear me out here. I felt a need to get that spoiler out there because 1) I had no idea it was coming and I could have used something to soften THAT blow, and 2) I think that if you read the description you can kind of maybe guess that’s the end game. Even if you didn’t really want to believe that’s what was happening. Me getting this out there was not out of malevolence or spite, even if I was pretty well put off by it when I was reading this book. But, in spite of the fact that is just a reprehensible reality of this story, I do believe that there was a point to it. And once I kind of came around to that point, well, I was more willing to think about what the baby eating was kind of really about.

Our protagonist (“You” as he is referred mostly, as this is written in the second person, but Rhys by everyone else) is living a monotonous life in modern day Britain, working a cold calling job that is utterly thankless. Then he goes home and exists in the same sphere as his roommates, masturbates a bit to web cam porn, occasionally goes to the pub with his mates who aren’t really that good of mates if we’re being honest. His mates and those around him barb and bitch about the problems of society, usually pinning it all on immigrants, and then Rhys goes back and repeats it all over again, and again, and again. Until in a drunken blackout he finds the home of someone he’d cold called, murders the entire family, and brings the corpse of the baby home. And then he cooks it and eats it. And decides that yeah, he could do it again. It actually kind of smacked of an old school Ketchum novel, with balls to the wall violence and depravity that is meant to make the reader squirm and shake and question whether or not they could continue. I could also see the undertones of Chuck Palahniuk at his most disgusting and wretched (looking at YOU, “Guts”). I mean, horrific imagery and themes aside, I have to admit that Wilks can write, can craft words and sentences and soliloquies that leapt off the page as I was reading this book, my jaw fully agape in abject horror. Sometime the second person didn’t quite work or came off as scattered, but I do understand the choice behind it. And I think that I do see where Wilks was going. For me, the point is that for some people, the more deplorable realities of society crushes them and twists them into monsters that do absolutely horrible things. And then in turn, that same society refuses to see just what it was that really happened, or the role that it played, and then instead focuses on scapegoats that fit a narrative that are far more comfortable (i.e. everyone assuming that it had to be some ‘immigrant’ that had kidnapped these missing babies). Just to let the cycle start over again. It was as if ‘you’ were the symbol or product of an apathetic, cynical society that chewed people up and spit them out as mutants, which eventually led to the sacrifice and violent consumption of the innocent and innocence in itself. Which I really appreciated in these times.

And THAT, my friends, is why I really have no idea what to do with this story when it comes to saying what the HELL I thought about it!!!

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(source)

I guess I will say this. I definitely appreciated the underlying metaphor here that lots of innocent people get caught in the crossfire of awfulness that could have been prevented if perhaps an overarching selfishness or apathy was done away with or combated by those who have the power to do so. Yes, by having our protagonist devolve to a point and literally eat babies it was hitting the reader over the head. But I can’t say that it’s untrue. So fine, “Cold Calling”. Ultimately I jive with what you had to say. But DAMN if it wasn’t an absolutely nasty ass read and NOT for the faint of heart. It was too much even for me.

Rating 6: The writing is pretty good and the ultimate metaphor was one that I got and found pretty powerful. But I personally had a hard time with the implementation of said metaphor.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Cold Calling” is new and hasn’t found it’s way onto any Goodreads lists yet. But it would fit in on “Maneaters”, and “Cannibal Books”.

“Cold Calling” isn’t available of WorldCat as of now, but you can find it on Kindle Unlimited at Amazon.

 

Serena’s Review: “A Darker Shade of Magic”

22055262Book: “A Darker Shade of Magic” by V.E. Schwab

Publishing Info: Tor Books, February 2015

Where Did I Get this Book: audiobook from the library!

Book Description: Kell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London–a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

Review: Apparently, I picked up this book right when my bookclub friend Alicia was looking for a book gift for me for our bookclub gift exchange ruining all of her plans. But…#NOREGRETS! Sorry Alicia! I already waited too long to get to this gem, a fact that was even more underlined once I discovered what I had been missing. This is a good example of being bit in the butt by being too gunshy of books that have been extremely hyped, since it well deserved all the mass praise it has received over the last few years!

In this book, there are three (or…four?) Londons based in different worlds, all with varying levels of magic. Grey London (our London) is practically magic-free, Red London is thriving with a healthy relationship with magic and magic users, White London is slowly dying, starved for magic, and then…Black London, a place many have forgotten ever actually existed outside of its own cautionary tale of what happens when greed, gluttony, and power mix too closely with magic. These worlds are all disconnected from each other, a decision that was made to protect the worlds when Black London began its descent. Kel is one of two beings left with the ability to travel between these worlds.

Right there you have a great set up for a new fantasy world. Not only is there one new world, but a whole set of them with various interactions and politics between them. Through Kel, we see these three worlds (Black London remains a threatening presence looming in the background and the source of the book’s primary conflict, but not an actual place that is visited in the book. I hope this changes in future stories!). I loved the time that was spent in each of these worlds. They are all so fully realized and populated, from the named characters we interact with in each, to the general feeling and culture of the populace. Each world is full of rich detail, and I couldn’t ever decide which was the most exciting to spend time in. Well, maybe Grey London, our London, was the least interesting. But there lives Lila! So, I don’t know!

Speaking of Lila, I was so excited to realize that she plays a much more integral role to this story than I had been lead to believe by the book description. In reality, this is a dual protagonist book featuring both Kel and Lila.

Lila is a Grey London resident, a thief, and a young woman who is desperately looking for something more out of life. Namely, she wants to be a pirate. This sounds silly, typing it out, but one of the things I most loved about this character was her unwillingness to apologize for what she wanted out of life and the decisions she made pursuing these goals. Obviously, being a thief, Lila’s outlook on morality is skewed by her own experience growing up in extreme poverty and a life full of danger and uncertainty. What was fascinating about Lila was the evolution of the reader’s understanding of her throughout the story. Even finishing it, I’m not quire sure where the line is drawn between the brash, hyper confident, bold persona that she has created to survive, and her actual core being. Her moments of vulnerability gave small glimpses further in, but it was also gratifying to discover that, while some of this seeming persona was built up as a survival tactic, Lila is also just Lila: foolishly brave and lovably standoffish. Her characterization could have easily slipped into stereotypes, but Lila practically jumps off the page as a fully formed, fully flawed, character.

Kel, too, was a great character. I particularly enjoyed the inner struggles we see within him with regards to his strained relationship with the royal family of Red London who have raised him as their son, but also rely on him as a valuable tool due to his power, and, though he doesn’t remember, likely stole him away from his original family when young. I especially loved the relationship he has with the crown prince, Rye. It was a lovely example of male friendship and  brotherly love, full of tension, heartbreak, and affable goodwill.

Together, Kel and Lila are great duo. Their characters bounce off each other perfectly, and I pretty much just want to read a whole book series of just these two going off on madcap adventures, Kel full of exasperation with Lila the whole way.

I haven’t even talked about the plot or villains, but they were much darker than I had initially thought when picking up this book. The mad twins who rule White London, in particular. I also loved the increasing knowledge of the uses, limitations, and dangers of the magic system in these worlds that readers slowly discover throughout the course of the story. None of it felt like convenient wand-waving, but parts of a larger system that we as readers are only scraping the surface of. I’m excited to see where the author goes with this aspect of the story as well.

I’ve already gone on and on and only touched upon a few of the points of this story that I loved! 2017 has just started, but I’m pretty sure I’ve already found a Top 10 inclusion for the year!

Rating 10: Loved it. Loved everything about it. Characters, world building, magic system, adventure, danger, family, friendship, romance!

Reader’s Advisory:

“A Darker Shade of Magic” is included on these Goodreads lists: “Most Interesting Magic System” and “Books with parallel world.”

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